Earlier this year, Mercedes-AMG – the arm of Mercedes-Benz responsible for its ridiculously high-powered high performance vehicles – unveiled its most powerful E-Class models of all time. The E 63 4MATIC+ and its more sportier variant, the E 63 S 4MATIC+*, both pack an intoxicating punch. And we managed to personally test them out.

Under the hood is the most powerful 4.0-liter twin-turbo V8 engine AMG has ever installed into an E-Class. Running through a nine-speed dual-clutch transmission, this transforms into 604 bhp (450 kW) and 627 lb ft (850 Nm) of torque in the S model, and 563 bhp (420 kW) and 553 lb ft (750 Nm) in the standard E 63. Both charge from 0-60mph (100kmh) in less than 3.5 seconds, with a capped top speed of 156mph (250kmh; with AMG Driver’s package it’s unleashed to 186mph or 300kmh).

One of the most technologically impressive elements of the new E-Class is the cars' newly installed $MATIC+ all-wheel drive system. Essentially a way to switch control and power between the wheels, the 4MATIC+ system allows front and rear torque distribution to be fully variable for the first time (previously the preference would be to the rear) for maximum traction and control. What this means is that you can now switch between traction-focussed four-wheel drive or to pure rear-wheel drive in an instant – or let the car do the thinking for you.

Where the 4MATIC+ tech really comes into play is through the Mercedes-AMG’s “Race” mode. Switch it on, deactivate the ESP, switch the gearbox to manual, and pull the shift paddles and you’ll switch into “Drift” mode. Using the 4MATIC+ system, power then shifts from all four wheels to the rear, making it easier for you to glide across the tarmac. The car’s in-built “air body control” suspension system keeps you hugging the ground so you don’t go spinning out of the corner.

We took the E-Class for a spin across the sunny climes of Portugal – both on and off the track – to put the car to the test. Check out Highsnobiety's exclusive film of the experience, “Drifting Days Are Here Again”, above.

*Combined fuel consumption: 9.1–8.8 l/100 km; combined CO₂ emissions: 207–199 g/km.

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